Joanna and Ralph Budelman founded Chillibreeze in 2004. The couple, who grew up in Louisiana and Illinois respectively, have jointly started a variety of businesses, including a software company at Bangalore, India. “We have always been purpose driven and couldn’t build strong cultures at those initial businesses,” says Joanna Budelman. “We believe in what others are not willing to do.” Their belief then drew them to Shillong, a remote and little-known area in the Northeastern Indian state of Meghalaya, where they saw the potential to work with the people there, who were known for their strong affinity for western culture and the arts. The company has been able to tap that talent in providing graphics design services to Fortune 500-caliber companies in the technology, pharmaceutical, and food industries. Chillibreeze has since opened a second office in Aizawl, the capital of Mizoram, another state in Northeast India that lies between Burma and Bangladesh.
In 2020, the Budelmans were hunting for a succession plan. After starting their business 16 years earlier, they were looking for a system to help teach and engage their staff—most of whom had joined Chillibreeze right out of school. “We needed to raise leaders who could make critical business decisions,” says Budelman.
In their research into succession planning, the Budelmans came across Jack Stack’s The Great Game of Business. The values they read about within it resonated with them. They moved quickly to share the book with their team members while also investing in MiniGame™ and financial literacy training—with the team sometimes waking up at 2 a.m. to learn from The Great Game of Business® (GGOB) teachers in the U.S. “We were hungry to learn!” says Budelman.
After the Budelmans named Alfred Kharpuri, a member of their financial department, as their GGOB Design Team leader, things took off. Under Kharpuri’s leadership, the team was soon playing 17 MiniGames across the company to tackle cost saving and revenue generating opportunities. While the team had never before created a budget, the financial literacy training opened their eyes—especially when it came to the power of forward-forecasting. Case in point: the team recognized early in the first quarter of 2021 that it was some $100,000 behind on their target. By making changes, they ended the year beating their goal by $500,000—or 40% more than their sales from the year before—and earning a healthy GainShare bonus.
“Before GGOB, we didn’t hit our targets. Now we have learned how to control and influence the numbers and our improved forecast accuracy reflects that. And our targets don’t come from the top down. It’s all coming from the frontline, the bottom up. We believe in the goals we set.”
~ Andy Lyngdoh, Head of Graphic Design Production Department
Pain Points and Opportunities
With the business growing rapidly—80% over the past year—Chillibreeze is looking to expand its team. “We don’t have enough people,” says Budelman. The main challenge is that bringing new team members on, especially those fresh out of school, requires substantial time and training not only in graphics design, but also in financial literacy. The catch 22 is that the burden to mentor and train new recruits falls on the experienced team members who already have their hands full serving clients. “We have so much opportunity, but we are telling customers that we can’t take on new work,” says Budelman. “It’s a stressful time inside the company. We’re walking a tightrope.”
“GGOB has a big-time impact on the culture in Chillibreeze in terms of engagement. Everyone is involved from every department in deciding where we want to go as a company. We’re getting everyone immersed in thinking and acting like owners. When we see something that needs to be improved, we say, ‘Let’s play a MiniGame’ to fix it.”
~ Alfred Kharpuri, Associate, Finance Department and Chillibreeze Design Team Leader
In their first year of playing GGOB, the Chillibreeze team played an impressive 34 MiniGames across the company's five departments. To help drive more awareness and engagement, the team created a dedicated Microsoft Teams channel that lets everyone know when a new MiniGame has been launched, when targets are met, and provides a wrap-up summary of the results afterward. They also created an internal award called the MiniGame Cup, where they award teams for the most successful game played.
“I believe we are just getting started in playing GGOB,” says Budelman. “We have an amazing team that plays to win and innovate. We’re excited to take our game play to the next level in the coming years.” Some of the goals in the coming year are to improve their scoreboards, start benchmarking their results against their competitors, and get even more engagement in their MiniGames. With an eye on their long-term future, the Chillibreeze team also kicked off their High-involvement Planning™ efforts in April 2022 by sharing their three-year objectives along with a 10-year shared vision. “GGOB gives our company a framework to connect everyone,” says Budelman. “GGOB aligns with our culture and is helping us build accountable participation.”
“GGOB has immensely impacted the company. It builds ownership, entrepreneurial mindset, and accountability. People are more motivated and inspired to come to work every day. The main huddle is just amazing.”
~ Demander Hujon, Head of Business Technology Services Department